Three Ways to Avoid the 5K Fundraising Event

By: Guest | October 13, 2011 | 

Today’s post is written by Linda Olatunde.

Most nonprofits stick to some of the tried and true fundraising events to support their organization, raise money, build supporters, and gain wider recognition throughout the community. These events are the annual 5K run and the banquet dinner.

As PR professionals and marketers, we take our clients’ requests to get the word out and promote these standard fundraising events in all of the traditional ways.

We get them the local media coverage and we increase awareness for their organization with new audiences and past supporters.

For the most part, we honor the request of our nonprofit clients by effectively getting their message and event to the masses and surpassing last year’s outreach numbers.

We have done our jobs successfully, more money has been raised, see you next year!

Not quite.

The strategy behind putting together a 5K is effective. It requires a small time commitment from participants,with a potential high monetary yield. These are all great things, yet it no longer stands out. Almost every organization is doing a 5K run.

It is time for some new ideas!

If you currently work with a nonprofit and have already begun the task of getting the word out to targeted audiences regarding next year’s 5K, I ask you to take a step back and perhaps offer some suggestions to your client by first asking them these questions:

  1. Why should a company encourage their employees to participate in your organization’s 5K run?
  2. What are you doing differently to keep your volunteers engaged with this event each year?

I am sure they will defend, ever so eloquently, their reasoning for keeping the 5K run alive, but the real reason is, because it’s tradition.

Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with tradition. However, from a donor perspective, and as an individual who has a passion for youth issues, women’s health, animal rights, and feeding the continent of Africa, I can only choose a few organizations to financially support each year.

The question your clients’ organization will have to answer is, “How can we entice this advocate to support our cause this year?”

This is where you come in for your client, PR person, marketing master.

Suggest new and fresh and fundraising events that work in accordance with the organization’s personality.

Three Ways to Avoid the 5K Fundraising Event

  1. Host a Zumbathon Party. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Organization beat all nonprofits to the punch by officially partnering with the national Zumba Fitness organization – Party in Pink. But that’s nationally. Locally, any nonprofit can hold a Zumba party with proceeds benefiting an organization’s cause. Partnering with a local gym provides volunteer instructors, as well as participating gym members, which all goes back to the nonprofit cause.
  2. Amateur Talent Show. This is a great way to let your client get their employees, board members, junior board members, and volunteers involved in something fun, interactive, and requires about the same amount of planning time as organizing a 5K does.
  3. Bowling Party. Let your client know team-oriented activities build camaraderie while raising money and awareness for their organization. It is a great way to get local businesses as well as corporations involved.

Do you have suggestions for your nonprofit client? How would you suggest they stray off the beaten path and raise funds?

Linda Olatunde is the principal of Yellow Duck PR. You can find her blog here and like them on Facebook. Originally from New York City, she has lived and worked in Boston, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and almost London. She is planting roots in Chicago and loves what she does.

  • rcoffee

    We are the fattest nation on the planet. What’s wrong with raising money AND getting people active and fit? 5K’s help to get a community off the couch and doing something. Until the obesity issue is solved in America, we need more running/walking events in America…not less.

    How many guys are going to do a zumba class? You’ve just cut your market in half.

  • I recently worked with two different nonprofits, neither of which held a 5k (one does, but I don’t work on that one). One was a Jazz Benefit event, with a wonderful artist and plenty of wine to go with the silent auction. Lots of times folks rely on ticket sales leading up to an event; what they should also do is focus on what can you do AT the even to raise funds. Wine and beer, past the complimentary glass or two is a great way; silent auction; raffles; and shopping with a portion of the proceeds going back to the nonprofit. The second event I’m referencing was a Ladies only event (sorry @rcoffee , that was this particular demographic) and was a night out of fashion (fashion show), shopping (lots of vendors), raffle items, and wine (complimentary drink and then purchase after that). Ladies shopped ’til they dropped and had a great time. These are older, more mature ladies who will not run in a 5k.

    To @rcoffee ‘s point, the event should support the overall cause and resonate with the demographic. We live in an older market, who has more money to give…give them their kind of evening out and it’s a win-win for all involved.

  • Good stuff Linda… breaking from the norm is something we should all be encouraged to do from time to time.

    Here’s something a little different… we get asked to produce a lot of videos that are then shown at fundraising events. I think it’s a great idea, but it’s not the only type of event video organizations can produce.

    I love the idea of producing a video during the event itself. Doing that allows you to share it later with everyone who attended, people who couldn’t make it, and anyone else for that matter. Example:

    Sending the video out in an email campaign and posting it via social media keeps the event going even after it’s over. It can also be used the following year to help sell tickets to the next event.

    –Tony Gnau

  • I have some close friends doing Race Across America and raising money for autism. Fundraising is definitely a special talent, that’s for sure! Especially when we are asked for money every single day. The more social you can make it the better.

    Thanks , Linda, for guest posting for us!

  • @rcoffee we are a fat nation, no doubt. Depends on the audience you’re trying to reach. I don’t know for a fact what other evens they do other then Zumba and the walks, but I imagine they diversify the events to broaden the reach.

  • @rcoffee we are a fat nation, no doubt. Depends on the audience you’re trying to reach. I don’t know for a fact what other evens they do other then Zumba and the walks, but I imagine they diversify the events to broaden the reach.

  • @rcoffee we are a fat nation, no doubt. Depends on the audience you’re trying to reach. I don’t know for a fact what other evens they do other then Zumba and the walks, but I imagine they diversify the events to broaden the reach.

  • Linda, the title of this one really caught my eye. Coming from brick and mortar retail, we get so many solicitations to sponsor 5Ks that none of them stand out. I think at one point, I actually had 12 different flyers on my desk.

    You are right, some 5Ks are a long term tradition, and that makes it hard to change. But if the event is no longer producing results, then I think getting creative with different ideas, as you suggest, is wise.

  • Lindao

    Exactly Adam – There needs to be a clear vision as to why an organization puts a fundraiser together such as a 5K and it cannot be because “that’s what every other nonprofit is doing.” There is no incentive for you to be engaged. The mission of every nonprofit holds enough creativity to find individuality in fundraising events.

  • Lindao

    @Lisa Gerber Thank you for the opportunity!! I loved writing this! A little provocative. Wait to you see how I take on education and the immediate need for re-branding. 🙂

  • Lindao

    @T60Productions I love that! Have you been pitched this idea to them?

  • Lindao

    @rcoffee I love the idea of raising money and getting people fit in the process. What I am suggesting for a successful fundraising event is to think outside of the box. Ask yourself or your organization rather, why a 5K? If the answer is general, and can be regurgitated by any other nonprofit organization then you are doing your fundraising efforts a disservice. Nonprofits have a passionate vision and powerful mission statements. When thinking of including donors, contributors and volunteers into fundraising efforts, draw them into each event that the organization is passionate about and the type your target audiences would care to get involved in.